A business owner at age 19, award winning entrepreneur at 30, columnist at 32, and widow at 38, Susan Harkema (formerly Allen) has been in and around healthcare her entire adult life as a business professional, strategist, wife caregiver, patient advocate, speaker and writer.
After working to help business owners, providers, hospitals, and health systems – large and small – create new services and reach new markets, she found herself on the other side of healthcare as the caregiver to her first husband. Together, they fought his life threatening and chronic blood clotting disorder, which required 10 surgeries, over 600 blood “exchange” procedures and entailed countless “mini” strokes, renal failure, speech difficulties, and hospital admissions. In November, 2008, after two months of hospitalization and many medical complications, her husband died just one month after their 15th anniversary.
Susan understands what it means to deal with chronic illness, acute illness, and end of life issues, as well as navigating a complex and fragmented healthcare system that stumps even seasoned healthcare professionals when they, or their loved ones, become ill.
Her belief is that EVERY patient needs an advocate and a support system to ensure that he or she understands his or her illness, can maximize the quality of health and life, as well as ensure that the medical care they receive is of the highest quality with the lowest risk of mistakes or detriment to personal values and life priorities.
But, patients and their families can’t do it alone, obviously. Healthcare providers – physicians, nurses, ancillary and allied health professionals – are under the strain of regulatory and payment changes, pressure to see more patients in less time, and to be more responsible for their patients’ behavior and outcomes even when the patient is out of their direct care.
Susan has the utmost respect for every dedicated, caring healthcare professional. They are the people who helped prolong her first husband’s life while administering critical treatment and care. She believes that healthcare professionals need advocacy, too, in order to help bridge the gaps that can occur between them and their patients in a fast-paced, disjointed and pressured environment.
That’s why it requires advocacy, for both sides, to amplify the voices of patients and families, as well as the voices of physicians and professionals.
After 20 years in healthcare, and 10 of them spent as an advocate and lay confidant to her own husband as well as other family members, friends and strangers, Susan’s vision through MyHealthVoice.com is to contribute something of value towards the goal of empowering patients, as well as their personal and professional caregivers. Creating this web world is her way of becoming your advocate for living better with chronic illness.
To learn more about Susan Harkema, creator of MyHealthVoice.com, visit her LinkedIn Profile.
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